What Law Shall Govern Deep-Sea Mining1
The year 1978 may well be the year of decision as to whether the mining of the deep seabed shall be governed by a multi-national treaty, by domestic legislation, or by some sort of mini-treaty among the nations whose people have the technical and financial capabilities to engage in this activity.
There is no propsect whatever that the U.N. Law of the Sea negotiations will produce a treaty under which private investments in deep-sea mining can be safely made. The scheme, set in cement in successive drafts, is premised on the substitution of political control of the seabed, indistinguishable from sovereign ownership, in a new 150-nation authority, for the historic principle of freedom of the seas. It is inimical to private enterprise in every significant respect.
Domestic legislation, now well under way in both houses of the United States Congress, is essentially a licensing scheme based on the sovereign’s power to control the activities of its nationals in the exercise of a high-seas freedom. A significant feature is the offer of reciprocity to nations enacting comparable legislation.
A mini-treaty among the nations capable of carrying out deep-sea mining may well be the ultimate outcome of reciprocal legislation. If not, reciprocal legislation alone would create a de facto regime for self-restraint in the exercise of a freedom of the seas, including the protection of the marine environment as well as avoidance of encroachment on one another’s mining operations.
Industry would have a reasonable chance of attracting the necessary capital for operations under such a scheme.
Figures & Tables
The energy and mineral resources of the vast Pacific basin and its neighboring land areas play a vital role in meeting the ever-growing needs of society worldwide. Building on the foundation of a highly successful conference held in 1978, this volume contains 51 of the 135 papers presented there. Subjects included are general and specific in nature--oil, gas, and coal resources; geothermal fields, uranium; tin; evaporites, trace elements; water resources; magma energy and fuels from magma. Geological and geophysical techniques, and also the new tool of remote sending for petroleum and minerals exploration are represented. Tectonics, structure fundamentals, subsurface hazards, international treaties and the law of the deep sea are discussed. Seventeen countries and regions are represented in these papers: Thailand, Nicaragua, the United States, Japan, Peru, Antarctica, El Salvador, Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, New Zealand, China, Chile, Indonesia, Canada, and the Pacific Ocean.